THE MARVELLOUS ANDRAZ CASTLE
The Castle of Andraz [‘ciastél’ in Fodom dialect] is a splendid Tyrolean manor located in the hamlet of Castello (Municipality of Livinallongo del Col di Lana); the Andraz Castle is considered the emblem of the whole valley of Livinallongo (the Fodom Valley). It has been the seat of many men of power throughout the centuries and it has reached the top of his splendor under the leadership of the prince-bishops of Brixen as one of the major strategic point for the control on trade and communication routes: from Brixen through Passo delle Erbe, Val Badia and Valparola it was easy to reach the high Agordino, Belluno and finally Venice. The castle was in touch with the hamlets of Rocca Pietore, Laste, Avoscan and Alleghe through the use of fire signals. The Castle of Andraz has been the bulwark agaist the aspiration towards expansion of the Republic of Venice; the Dolomites were a place of a certain interest because of their richness of wood and mines.
HISTORY OF THE ANDRAZ CASTLE
The Castle of Andraz has a very significant historical importance for the whole area: the first historical evidences of the presence of the Andraz Castle date back to the year 1005 A.D., when this manor was included in the list of the possessions of the County of Pustertal, but the presence of numerous findings in the area suggests the existence of this fortification in the period before this date (it is generally assumed that in this place there was a Roman fort, probably destroyed during the barbaric invasions and rebuilt around the year 1000). In 1027, Conrad II the Salian donated part of his possessions in Livinallongo and Colle Santa Lucia to the Prince-Bishop of Brixen, but the castle remained property of the sovereign. The only things that we know about this period is the strategic importance of the Andraz Castle in the territorial disputes between the vassals of the Emperor (the Puochensteins), the Avoscano Family and the inhabitants of the “Magnificent Community” of Rocca Pietore. A descendant of the Puochenstein Family sold the Castle to the Prince-Bishop of Brixen, and it remained in their possession until the beginning of the 19th Century. The Prince-Bishop Conrad von Rodenegg installed his vassals, the Schoneck Family, to rule over his new territory, but the Schonecks distinguished themselves immediately for the extreme cruelty with which they reigned over the peasants of the Fodom Valley, so much so that the Count of Tyrol was forced to intervene displacing the two vassals and seizing their assets (but the manor remained a possession of the Schonecks). Around 1331, the scarcity of economic resources compelled the Schoneck to sell their rights on the castle to their sworn enemy, Guadagnino Avoscano; Guadagnino ruled over the castle for an instant, since in 1350 the Castle was subjected to a siege led by Conrad Gobel and the area was given back to the Bishops of Brixen. During the bishopic domination, the Andraz Castle were given to many noble tyrolean families (Stuck, Wolkenstein and Villander) as a holiday location and a strategic place to control the local economic activities (the important “Strada da la Vena” (one of the most important of the Iron Routes of the Dolomites) was located indeed near the Castle, and the manor itself hosted a huge melting furnace). From 1416, the Prince-Bishop of Brixen took direct control over the manor by placing an armed garrison and using the castle as a summer residence (and as a shelter in case of situations of particular political instability like the feud with the Counts of Tyrol and the Peasants’ War in 1525). After the turbulent phase of the Napoleonic Wars that ended the Bishopric of Brixen (1803), the Castle was annexed to the Austrian Empire and almost abandoned until 1853, when it was sold to a private citizen that used its walls as a personal stock of building material and the precious furniture and masterpieces as firewood. Among the distinguished guests who inhabited the Castle, there was also the theologian, astronomer and philosopfer Nicholas of Cusa (1401-1464) as Bishop of Brixen. Today the Castle of Andraz, thanks to the important work of restoration in recent times, houses an interesting Museum and promotes cultural events in order to further the knowledge of the historical background of the areas of the High Agordino Valley and of the ancient Tyrol.
RESTORATION OF THE CASTLE AND THE BIRTH OF THE MUSEUM
The Museum of the Castle of Andraz is located inside the ancient manor house that dominates the Fodom Valley; the building, which has been for centuries subjected to the administrative control of the Prince-Bishop of Brixen, has undergone remarkable restoration, renovation and consolidation works in the period between 1986 and 2002, in addition to extensive archaeological excavations (which have allowed the rediscovery of the antique melting furnace of the Castle, an important testimony of the mining period and iron trade along the legendary “Strada de la Vena“, that is the “Iron Route”). The meticulous restoration of the building has partially allowed to repair the damages derived from centuries of erosion by the weather elements and from the massive bombing during the Great War, always paying close attention to the use of the original materials recovered from the rubble but distinguishing the restored parts from the original ones). According to the intention of the Municipalities that have promoted the restoration work, the Castle od Andraz has become a fundamental testimony for the understanding of the dynamics of power and trade related to the history of the upper part of the Agordino and the Tyrol, with particular references to the events related to the mining process and transport of the iron from the Mines of Mt Fursil to the melting furnaces of Valparola in Val Badia.
The castle Museum is a unique and extremely impressive exhibition space; a cultural itinery inside the Museum leads the visitors to discover the different stages of the evolution of the building through multimedia projections, scale models, diagrams, information boards, photos and exhibits in addition to interesting historical insights on the most significant moments of the history of Andraz Castle. A visit to the Castle Museum is strongly recommended to visitors of all ages, who can simply visit the museum or taking part in a guided visit or use the excellent audio guide; for handicapped people (and their carers), school groups and teenagers under 16 years old there are special discounts.
Infos and reservations:
For the guided tour is advisable to book your visit at the contacts of the Museum or of the Isititut Ladin Culturale Cesa de Jan in Colle Santa Lucia; it is advisable to call these telephone numebers also to obtain information about the opening times and prices: